ArcheAge and my Thoughts on Founders Packs

Update: See my first impressions of ArcheAge Beta Event 3 here!


archeageopenbetaI haven’t been following the progress on ArcheAge until just recently. It seems to be a sandboxy themepark blend that just released its founders packs last night. From what I’ve seen and read, this is a game I’d be interested in trying out — far more than ESO or WildStar. It looks graphically amazing, has tons of promised features, and will be free to play at launch. While it does have some open PVP elements, as long as that’s balanced and not a total gankfest, the game has my interest.

What doesn’t have my interest? The cost of their founders packs.

Thoughts on Founders Packs

I’m on the fence about founders packs. I understand their purpose — to secure some Kickstarter-like funding during alpha and beta while “rewarding” the most interested players with early access to a game. At least, I think that’s what it’s supposed to be about.

But when I look over and see an alpha pricetag of $149.99… I just whistle through my teeth (if I could whistle through my teeth).

Call me cheap, but I’ll drop $10 – $20 on Kickstarters for games that have promise and a passionate team. Just about all my gaming friends have plunked down $15 for the Starbound beta, and some of them have put more time into that game than this year’s biggest MMOs!

I even dropped $50 on the Landmark alpha pack, and that’s not something I regret. It’s been rewarding to watch the game as it evolves over time!

Landmark Founders Packs

That was a different story, however. Landmark offered a $20 option for beta. Even lacking other goodies, it’s an affordable option for someone dedicated to testing, supporting a game, and exploring the game’s secrets. SOE also offered a money-back guarantee if you didn’t like the game. This was the thing that tipped me over from “maybe” to “okay, I’m in.”

But where do gamers draw the line? 

When the cheapest founders packs are $49.99, I have to slowly back away. Sure, you get some in-game cash, a cool glider, 30-day patron status, and a neat title. Maybe all this adds up to something worth $50?

The problem is, I can’t really judge its worth since I’ve not stepped foot in the game and tried it for myself. And if I don’t like it? Is that really a risk I want to take with my money?

Also… Why do they even ask you to sign up for beta if they’re just going to sell seats to it? It’s not like you can compete with the number of founder folks who are promised a spot.

Learning from Betas

This game made me sad.

I’ve learned something important about MMO gaming this year. Actually, I learned it last year, when I put forward support for the Dragon’s Prophet alpha and beta, and walked away burned for time and some cash.

What did I learn? Not every big-name MMO is going to be something I like and need to play. Gone are the days when I rode the hype for the next new MMO, back with the next new MMO title was far more rare than it is now.

I learned that genuinely bad MMOs can exist. Even (and I wince as I say it) MMOs that include dragon capture, dragon riding, scythes and a housing system. How could so many great-sounding features fall so flat? Yes, I’m still sour about Dragon’s Prophet. I wanted it to be wonderful! It… simply was not.

After that burn, I’ve been more careful where I put my dedication and time, especially when it comes to games with paid founders packs, pre-orders and beta. Especially those that won’t be free to play in the end — ESO and WildStar, I’m looking at you!

The best thing ever? Getting to try free betas for the next-best-MMOs like ESO and WildStar. I was sad, but neither game excited me, especially not for a monthly subscription price. And yes, while it was beta and things will change, the overall feel and approach a game uses for storyline, questing, art and atmosphere will likely not change all that much from beta to launch.

Back to these Founders Packs

ArcheAge Founders Pack Options

All this being said, I still don’t know where I stand with the idea of founder packs, especially for future free to play games. I don’t razz folks who really love a game, have the money to support it, and put their money where their mouths are.

On the other hand, what’s the message gamers are sending to companies when they shove $150 at them for the chance to play an unfinished alpha-stage game? It says that this kind of pricing is okay and that gamers will take the risk.

Then there’s the question of how does selling founders packs differ from supporting something on Kickstarter? My answer for that? It differs by about $30 – $35 dollars in this case!

PS: If there was a $19.99 option I would have given it a shot. But this kind of founder pricing makes me worry where the game’s pricing on RMT will be headed at launch.


  1. A little off-topic, but I immediately become cautious when game sells itself with ‘We have dragons!’ Add in an ‘And everyone gets to ride one as a mount!’ and you’ve competely destroyed my interest in your game. Because I love dragons.

    I’ve been there in WoW. By the time I quit (WotLK), you were a loser if you DIDN’T have a dragon mount. That kind of thing just shatters my suspension of disbelief and then proceeds to grind it into dust. Not only does it inflate player power to a ridiculous degree, it also degenerates the concept of the dragon for me.

    I feel the as you same about founder packs, though.

    1. I agree somewhat with your feelings on the whole dragon mount thing. Especially if it’s a cash shop thing in a world where dragons are supposed to be rare and special. Though I’m a sucker for buying flying mounts (not in WOW, though). EQ2 hit me with that all the time! XD

      In the case of Dragon’s Prophet, though, the idea of the game was to bond, fight with and train dragons. They didn’t start out as just cash shop mounts or something you earned in high level quests, they were the focus of the game, and the central part of the world (kinda like Pokemon, but with realistic dragons). That’s what attracted me to try the game to start with.

      The dragons are sadly the only redeeming part of that game. Poor battle system, poor event system, bad level curve, bad translation, very hollow story and terrible clothing for women characters are just a few reasons I left after the first months. We sent a ton of feedback in alpha on how to improve all these areas, and most of it was ignored.

      And now, depending on which version you play, dragons have become cash shop random generated grab-bag rewards. Even the legendaries, which are meant to be something players worked for. 🙁

      1. Just to be clear: when I played, WoW did not have a cash shop of significance yet. I worked long hours for my Netherwing Drake, and when I got it, I was one of the few. Then the ‘Wrath of the Lich King’ expansion came, which handed out dragon mounts like halloween candy, in all colours and several shapes.

        The simply handing everyone a dragon pet/mount is exactly why I detest something like ‘Dragon’s Propet’. If you ask me, there are no dragons in that game. Just winged lizards.

        I understand the concept of a game where you acquire and develop pets for whatever purposes, but the idea of ‘let’s do away with all lesser pets and go right to dragons’ is completely flawed. If you hand everyone an olympic medal, the value of that medal becomes no more than the metal used to make it.

        Games like this should take a hint from Pokemon and include diversity beyond ‘red, blue and green winged lizards’. Even when you want to focus on flying, there’s all kinds of winged creatures. beyond birds, take a look at all the winged stuff in mythology. Not only does such diversity make a game more interesting in terms of gameplay mechanics and aesthetics, it also players to develop and express an identity beyond ‘Imma ridin’ a dragon!’

        1. There’s actually a lot of diversity of dragons in Dragon’s Prophet. Not all of the dragons fly – only certain types do. There’s land and water and various other kinds, which are (in theory) supposed to have their own strengths and weaknesses.

          Here’s a dragon list, which is actually pretty impressive in variety:

          There’s also legendary ancient type dragons which are super difficult to catch, which means your typical open-world dragon are your “lesser pets” while more powerful dragons are what you strive for.

          Though I can understand why you’d be frustrated after you worked hard to get your dragon mount in WoW and then they offer them to everyone.

  2. To clarify, ArcheAge is designed as a PvP MMO. There are PvE things that you can do in it, and there are parts of the world that will be “safe” zones where the enemy cannot attack you (unless you attack them first), but PvP is basically their primary focus.

    I didn’t really start looking into the game until today. I’d seen screenshots and read some tweets/G+/etc on it a bit here and there, but never really bothered to look until someone linked me to one of the developer’s livestreams. After watching that for a while, I was like “yeah, this game looks kinda cool, let’s see how much things cost”.

    Instead of going to the game’s site, like you have the screenshot of up there, I went to Trion’s site and looked at it from there. When you get to the founder’s packs on that site, they have them listed from largest to smallest, so when I scrolled down the first one I saw was the $150 and I just about spit my drink all over my computer.

    Whether or not the prices are all too high or not, of course, is a matter of opinion. I’ve spent way more than $50 to get into a game before, so that particular price doesn’t bother me much. If the game wasn’t focused so heavily on PvP, I’d probably be willing to pay that no problem. Since it is PvP though, my wife will have little to no interest which means there’s very little chance that I’ll bother. If I get into the open beta without having to buy it and then fall in love with the game, then sure I’d pay for whichever founder’s pack appealed to me most at the time.

    But let’s take another look at that cheap founder’s pack and really look at the price. First up you’re paying $50 to get it, so for a free game you’re starting out at -50 bucks. But, you do get $20 worth of currency for “free” by doing it, which means you’re only in the hole -30. Granted, if you don’t want that special currency, then it’s basically wasted, and the things that you spend that currency on are generally vanity items like costumes, pets, or mounts. So whether or not you value the $20 worth of currency at $20 or not is up to you. Then, there’s the month’s worth of Patron status which for Trion games is basically an optional subscription fee of $15. So you get a “free” month worth of that, which puts your cost down to $20.

    At $20, the cost isn’t too shabby. As you said yourself, for $20 it’s probably worth giving it a shot. The real problem here is that they’re requiring you to buy the currency and the month’s worth of patron status in order to be a founder at all. You can’t just pay $20 and skip those things that you may or may not ever use (meaning patron and currency), and that’s the real issue. Because Patron is included, you’re basically saying that not only do you want to play it, you’re also committing to play it for a month’s worth of time.

    If you do the same cost analysis of the other two options you find that for $100 you get $50 worth of currency and $30 worth of patron, so again you’re paying $20 for beta/early access. If you bump up to the most expensive option you get $75 of currency and $45 of Patron, which interestingly means you’re paying $30. Granted, you do get more things than the others, but it’s interesting that their most expensive option still costs more than the other two even after you remove the value of the “free” things.

    Personally, I plan to wait for open beta just so that I can try the game out, and then I’ll make a decision of whether or not to become a founder. If I like it, then I will. If it’s sort of meh, then I’ll skip it all together.

    1. Thanks for taking time to do that analysis. I think I’ve come to the same conclusion as you have. I’m still a bit confused by what beta access actually includes — I’ve read that some people say it’s only for specific beta weekend events, and not a 24/7 beta, such as the alpha servers provide. So there’s that, too.

      So there’s a pretty heavy emphasis on PvP? I tried to get a better feel for what that was about, but only found that there was some faction play, there are some safe areas, and that folks from your faction can’t kill you unless they flag themselves as an outlaw. Again, this is all stuff I’ve read from comments, so it’s hard for me to get an idea of the ruleset. If it’s as heavy PvP as you suggest, I may try it out, but I don’t see myself sticking with it as I can tolerate open world PvP, but don’t want to live in constant fear of gankers.

  3. I’m with you. I am a bit miffed by these Founder’s Pack ‘deals’. I am an avid Kickstarter support, I have done Early Access on Steam before, but there’s something a little off about fairly major MMO releases asking for these large amounts. Especially in the case of F2P games.

    Of course, I am one of those odd gamers that absolutely hates most bonuses you get for preorders or collector’s editions.Usually that stuff is a waste of space that ends up costing me more for zero reason. The only exceptions in recent memory was the boxed version of Wasteland 2, but that’s for the pure nostalgia/novelty of opening a big PC box again.

    MMO developers might as well charge for alpha and beta point-blank, no frills added. Want alpha? Give us $30. Want beta? We’ll take $15. Stop trying to gussy it up with unique titles, special items, and credits to the company store.

    1. Hey Murf! Thanks for commenting! 🙂

      Yes, I feel very similar to you. Except I’m a sucker for pretty outfits, mounts and special items. It’s the collector in me, I guess. However, I agree, they need to stop fluffing up the packages and just outright offer early access, such as they do on Steam. I wouldn’t have an issue with paying $20 to beta test and support a game I really liked.

  4. Been a supporter of Founder packs when they appeared up in the year 2011/2012. Unfortunately it’s the retail versions that are the worst variety. These aren’t indie-developers that are asking a boost from the communities that are interested in supporting them, these are established-retail companies that are taking advantage of the Founder’s Pack funding. They should be called “Alpha Access Testing Packets” because their fully finished games, not games that need source-crowd funding to launch.

    Prices are steep because players are willing and quickly to dispense their wallets. The game industry is the most easiest industry in those terms with testing the market. Promise something, get their money and regardless if they like the product or not doesn’t matter, write it off with PR marketing. These type of practices seem to be tolerated more in the Game Industry, and are almost a given.

    Fell for the Founder’s Retail Packs once before. Now more cautious and more experienced. Retailers are asking for $50 and up for packs that don’t even give access to the games except on select dates. The most expensive does but at first glance a new-comer or inexperienced buyer in Founders would not know this. They buy the cheapest founder packs expecting access to the game only to find out they can get onto the server on later dates.

    Scarlet Blade, EverQuest Next and ArcheAge all had founder packs starting with $50 and up. All of them expensive with the most being in the $100, Scarlet Blade $200 for a premium founder’s pack.

    The second problem with founders is the items in the packs themselves. Besides forum badges the items aren’t that great or useful in the actual game and the later-on items usually have a better function and vaule. It’s more for bragging rights for the players, but straight extra profit for the companies.

    When the indie developers are providing options for $5, $10 and $20 for complete/alpha/ games compared to retailers that are asking for $100’s established games it is a issue with marketing. Players might pay $300 a founder’s pack if it’s PRed enough.

    Car notes, for videogames 🙂

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